Easy Care Mandalas

October 23, 2020

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“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”

(Shunryo Suzuki)

Yesterday my husband brought home a beautiful African Spear plant. I was delighted and surprised since I’m usually the one bringing home plants.

When I asked about his inspiration for the plant, he proudly showed me the attached care tag and said “it says it’s an easy care plant.” In fact, on one side of the tag were the word Easy Care Plant. The other side of the tag showed that the plant really didn’t need much in the way of water or light – reassuring us that the plant would happily exist with the most basic of care. A little sun and an occasional watering and this plant would thrive.

My husband then paused and said, “hey, you should write a blog post about easy care!”

What is easy care?

For a moment if you will indulge me, I will begin by asking, what does easy care mean to you? When you say the words to yourself, how does it make you feel? Do any ideas or examples spring up?

When I think of the words easy care, I immediately feel a little lighter. Easy care makes me think of self-care made simple. Easy care feels approachable, enticing, and most importantly: doable.

Easy care seems vital during a time that is one of the most complicated times we have lived through. And in this culture we are already remarkably good at complicating things. We have endless choices in almost every corner of life. But rather than being helpful, these choices can become paralyzing.

Decision fatigue is very real. Have you ever stared at 10 rows of salad dressing in the grocery store while fretting over which one to put in your cart? And when it comes to self-care, we can choose from an endless buffet of options. In fact there are so many options that we may grow confused and never begin.

I agree with Seth Godin when he writes,
“You don’t need more time in your day. You need to decide.”

My Endless Choice Buffet
Here’s a personal example of how deciding and simplifying can be beneficial. I’ve always loved exploring spirituality. I soak up information from different books, podcasts, and spiritual traditions. At times I find myself drawn to so many different modalities that my initial spark of enthusiasm grows dimmer. I can begin to distract myself with possibilities, rather than committing whole heartedly to a single path.

A few months ago I was mentioning this issue to a psychologist and colleague. I spoke about wanting to return to a daily meditation practice. I talked about all of the different types of meditation I’ve explored and how I would begin reincorporating them all. I also shared how difficult it had been to recommit to these practices. He listened quietly and then said, “well which one do you feel pulled to practice right now? Which one could you devote 30 days to as an experiment?”

At first my mind reeled at the idea of choosing just one meditation practice for a month. It felt limiting and spiritually restrictive. Perhaps even too easy! However, after a few minutes I noticed the idea settling. I also felt a sense of relief. The simplicity of his idea resonated. I felt less scattered energetically and more eager to recommit to meditation.

This leads me into the the art part. (It always does, right)? One way to turn self-care into “easy care” is by using mandalas. Mandalas naturally shift our focus inwards. By staying within the circle, outer distractions may lessen as we pour our energy into the mandala form. Below I’ll outline a process I’ve used with myself and clients to create a simple self-care mandala. You will begin with some reflection and writing and then end up creating your own easy self-care mandala wheel.

Easy Self-Care Mandalas

Draw a mandala. You can trace a dinner plate or any medium sized object. Then divide the mandala into pie pieces. You can have 4 or more sections – your choice! Just keep in mind that each section will contain a self-care idea. You can also print out the blank self-care wheel in this post.

Next, take a deep breath. Pull the breath in from the top of your head and follow it slowly down to the bottoms of your feet. When you feel ready, reflect on the following questions.

Physical ~ What would support your living, breathing, and moving body?

Psychological ~ What would support your  learning, growing, and thinking?

Emotional ~ Your heart space. What does your heart space need to feel nurtured? How can you tend to your inner emotional landscape?

Spiritual ~ How can  you connect to your higher self or power? What supports a deeper connection with both yourself and other human beings? 

Jot down some answers on a piece of paper or in your journal. Then, for each category create a list of actionable self-care things you can do that are uncomplicated and also put a smile on your face.

For example, if you wrote that reading your favorite spiritual author helps you get in touch with your higher self, you might write “read a chapter each morning” from that book. If music nurtures your emotional heart space, you could write  “create and listen to an uplifting playlist when I’m feeling down.”

From that brainstormed list of self-care ideas circle the amount of ideas that correspond to the pie pieces of your wheel. If you are working with a 6 section wheel, than circle 6 ideas. If you have 4 sections, circle 4 ideas. Choose the ideas that sing to you the most. And don’t get caught up in which category they fall under. I always tell my clients that the categories are almost irrelevant – since physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual realms have a tendency to flow into one another.

When ready, grab your art supplies. Fill each piece of the self-care wheel with one of your circled ideas. You can use any art materials. Some people enjoy collaging on the wheel while others like working in colored pencil or markers. You can jot down a few words on the outer rim of the wheel to reflect what the self-care image is, or let the art speak for itself. Have some fun with the process. Notice how just the act of writing and drawing these ideas makes you feel.

Put It Into Practice
My advice is to keep your finished self-care wheel in a highly visible spot. Post it on the fridge, tape it onto a cabinet, or even a bathroom mirror. Select one self-care idea to complete every day of the week. Pretend that you’re spinning the wheel, and see where your eyes land.

The reason this is simple is because you don’t have to come up with a new list each time. This helps you avoid decision fatigue. And since you’ve picked ideas that are doable, my hope is that you will more easily follow through on your self-care idea each day.

The colorful self-care wheel pictured here is one I made for myself alongside my group members at the hospital. Notice how simple each idea is to practice. Listening to music is as simple as pushing play. Aromatherapy just requires your favorite essential oil and placing a few dabs on your body. Giving yourself a hug takes a few seconds.

Your self-care wheel will most likely look different, and that’s good! I want the ideas to be highly personal to you and based on what resonates with your lifestyle.

Below is a wheel I made yesterday that is only four segments. No color and a little more writing. This is just to show you that there is no right or wrong way to do this. The important thing is to go for it.

If you work with children or have your own children this is a wonderful process to explore with them. You can phrase the questions in a developmentally appropriate way. For example, you could ask a young child, “what activity helps you feel better if you’re upset? Do you have a favorite stuffed animal that you like to hug to help yourself calm down? What’s your favorite song to listen to when you want to feel more energy? How can you move your body to get the sillies out?”

Once they have some ideas, hand them a pre-drawn circle with sections and invite them to fill in the sections with their ideas. You will be amazed by how much creativity emerges naturally.

Encourage them to choose an idea from the wheel every day. If your children see you practicing the self-care wheel, you get extra points! Children are much more interested in practicing something they see us doing than in being told to do something we are unwilling to do ourselves.

I’m eager to hear about your ideas and any experiences in creating your own simple self-care ideas. Feel free to post a comment hear and/or head over to my Art Therapy Spot Facebook page to post images of your own easy self-care wheels.


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